[extropy-chat] Is the future under control?

Anders Sandberg asa at nada.kth.se
Mon Jan 15 17:01:57 UTC 2007

Technotranscendence wrote:
> On Monday, January 15, 2007 4:14 AM BillK pharos at gmail.com wrote:
>> Nanotech discoveries will probably be used to make money [snip]
> O! Brave new world!  What horrors await us?!  A future where someone
> might make some money!  Shudder the thought!  What must be done to stop
> that from ever happening?  :)

It is actually frighteningly common for people to make statements about
promising research along the lines of "...but we must of course make sure
it doesn't get too commercial". I have heard it about medical research,
stem cells, nanotechnology and many other fields. This attitude is of
course a major threat to any serious development of anything - imagine a
world where commercial interests were not allowed to affect the
development of trains, flight or computers - and it shows that to most
people are quite alien to the nature of economics and technological
development. A bit like how we have come to ignore the realities of
farming in our ever more fussy food scares.

As for the control of the future: whenever I hear somebody say that
technology is out of control and must be controlled, I ask what they think
about art. Clearly art is out of control, you are allowed to paint and
sculpt in any style you like, with any subject you can come up with and
affecting any mind coming into contact with it. Shouldn't that be put
under societal control? After all, art affects society as deeply as
technology. Usually "we must bring X under control" means that "I want to
control it according to my values".

Anders Sandberg,
Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

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